Super Tuesday made this crystal-clear: The next president will be a septuagenarian.
But voters shouldn’t worry about that, aging experts say.
Biden is 77. Sanders is 78. So is former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (who only won American Samoa last night and seems likely to reassess his campaign today). And President Trump, of course, is 73.
Concerns over the health of the senior citizen candidates have arisen throughout the campaign season. Biden critics have suggested his cognitive performance is lacking in debates. Sanders’s opponents made much of the heart attack he suffered last fall. And Democrats love to slam Trump’s lack of exercise and unhealthy eating habits.
Yet all of these candidates are highly likely to survive through a first and even a second presidential term, according to an academic paper released last fall by the American Federation for Aging Research.
The paper’s authors made life expectancy projections for the candidates based on their age and gender, using data obtained by the Centers for Disease Control and the Census Bureau and published annually by the Social Security Administration.
Biden has a 79 percent chance of surviving through a first term and a 70 percent chance of surviving through a second term, per the projections. Trump’s chance of surviving through a second term is 85 percent.
Even Sanders is more likely than not to survive through a possible eight years in the White House. The researchers pegged that likelihood at 66 percent. Sanders’s chances of surviving through a first term? Seventy-seven percent, according to the researchers.
“The number of times you’ve traveled around the sun should not be a litmus test for being president of the United States,” S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an author of the study, told me.
But if those odds still don’t sound great – the researchers projected a one-third chance of Sanders not surviving a second term, after all – realize these are extremely conservative estimates for how long the candidates might actually live.
Here’s why: U.S. presidents live longer than the average person. Presidents are typically better-educated, wealthier and have access to top-notch medical care – all factors in an individual’s longevity.
Olshanksy said they’re part of a group of people he calls “super-agers,” who are able to function at a high cognitive level into their 70s and 80s.
Plus, the candidates have already shown they have higher-than-average stamina, by virtue of the fact they’ve been on the grueling campaign trail for months, giving continuous speeches and television appearances.
“They’re operating with very little sleep, they’re under extreme stress, and the fact they’re functioning as well as they are gives you an indication right there that these folks are special,” Olshansky said.
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